I have been trying to watch Wimbledon.
God be with the days when my siblings and I would be glued to the black and white TV at home, in the hope of catching some Wimbledon action. This was never guaranteed, for, if the weather was good, Portuguese TV would beam all the way over to Ireland interfering with the patchy RTE transmissions. If it was windy, the TV aerial would swing around the wrong way and one of my brothers would have to scale the roof to adjust it. Finally there was the seating arrangement. With eight members of the family, a motley collection of stools and chairs and two comfy armchairs, there was always a row about who had bagged the best seats. Generally, the meek submitted, bums were parked on any available horizontal space, peace ensued, and the action could begin.
Oh, how we loved the shenanigans between all those tennis stars. Yvonne Goolagong,Billie Jean King. Chris Evert, John Lloyd, Chris Evert, Jimmy Connors, Ilie Nastase, John McEnroe, Chris Evert, Pat Cash, Bjorn Borg, Boris Becker. And it didn`t hurt one bit that they brought some of that action off court too. (Chris Evert)Our summers were happily invaded by all of these people. We all sat huddled in the sittingroom with curtains drawn, the better to see the action on the telly as the ball was twacked over and back. And usually, for hours on end.
I sat through the entire Bjorg/ McEnroe epic final match Remember that one? The one with the tie-breaker that seemed to go on forever?
I remember the Ilie Nastase on court. He delighted crowds with his antics. And John McEnroe behaving like a spoilt child, well, who could forget that?
In the women`s tennis Billie Jean King seemed to slay all before her, for years on end and later Navratilova followed suit. Meanwhile, ever glamourous and ever present for the presentation of prizes, the Duchess of Kent outlasted them all.[
Somewhere along those years, my interest in Wimbledon waned as long summer holidays blurred into a distant memory and real life in the form of work and children took over.
But I did try to instil some interest in the beautiful sport in my own kids. Each of them have had tennis coaching. We have two tennis courts nearby and come summer, I`d play each of them, until the boys got too good for me. Not that I was much of a challenge, since I have lack style, flair, and technique. Luckily, the kids have all those traits in abundance. Just no damned interest.
My daughter played up until last year. But for her at any rate, becoming a teen has put paid to any tennis playing ambition.
Nor have I had any luck in giving them a passive interest in the sport.
In an age where there are too many distractions, nothing in televisionland can command their attention for more than thirty minutes at a time. X Factor, of course, being the only exception. But that`s it. The very idea that they would sit inside a darkened room for four hours following a ball over and back is utterly alien to them.
Last week I decided it was time for me to be the shining example.
Armed with a packet of jellybeans, I invaded the family room. The girl poked her head up from behind her Nexus, took a couple of jellybeans, and dived back to her baseline again. The boy protested that he was watching something else. I hastily lobbed a couple of jellybeans in his direction. He handed me the TV remote without a whimper.
Wimbledon was all mine.
There were two ladies playing. One was sporting an orange knickers. We always noticed the tennis players`knickers when I was growing up. Well, who wouldn`t be a knicker watcher when Billie Jean came out sporting those very frilly white knickers? They were fun, And I distinctly recall thinking that Chris Evert`s knickers were boring in comparison. Turned out Chris was the trend setter.
So yes, orange knickers, I could follow them.
I chomped on a jellybean and then I heard it. As distinctly as the twak! of the tennis ball. No, in rhythm with the twak! of the tennis ball.. “Neeah!” twak! “GUUUU!”
I had another jellybean.
“NEEAH!” twak! “GUUUU!”
I had a few more jellybeans but soon realised that it was nothing to do with my jellybean addiction. This was a separate thing entirely. This was the sound of women`s tennis in 2013:
“NEEEEAHH!” twak! “GUUUUUUUU!”
I switched channels. Maybe coverage would be better somewhere else. Maybe there were men playing on another Wimbledon court. And maybe, just maybe, they hadn`t resorted to grunting.
Luckily they hadn`t. But then my luck ran out: one of the players was Andy Murray.
Still, it was my only option. I tried to stay awake. Honestly, I really did. I`d pass around the jellybeans and sometimes the kids would even make a pleasant comment or two about the proceedings. Or we would even meander onto a different topic entirely. But at least the TV was showing Wimbledon and I was actually sitting in front of it, just like the summers of my youth.
Only it wasn`t the summers of my youth.
Now, being considerably older, I was fighting the need to nap too. And the urge to channel hop. And kids who really weren`t all that excited by the sight of a bouncing ball.
When I woke two hours later, son was playing X-box on the telly, daughter was applying nail varnish, and the jellybeans were abandoned on the coffee table.
“Er, what happened in the Andy Murray match, son” I asked.
“Hold on Mum” came the reply ” I can look it up on the internet… Yeah, he won”
Plainly, I had lost yet another set in the Kids and Tennis match. Why watch something for hours an end when the answer can literally be at your fingertip in an instant?
But I am not throwing in my racquet just yet.
Heck, maybe I`ll have another go today.
It`s raining outside as I type. A proper Irish summer, just like the ones in my youth. The internet connection has been wavering all morning. Son has actually abandoned his laptop. Daughter has a pal over. A tennis play teen pal who actually, has no interest in make up. There is cream in the fridge and a punnet of strawberries. I might even fetch myself a Pimms.
Right, I`m off to wrestle the remote from son and reawaken ghosts of Wimbledon past. Wish me luck.
Just don`t tell me Andy Murray or the grunting girls are playing